West Virginia reported another all-pandemic high today of 893 covid patients being treated in the hospital, and state leaders say it’s a growing challenge to find ways to care for people with medical emergencies.
“The ERs are overwhelmed and there are no places to put the patients,” said state Senate Majority Leader Tom Takubo, who is also a pulmonologist.
Takubo, R-Kanawha, relayed several stories today on MetroNews’ “Talkline” about crowded hospital conditions.
“That’s what people don’t understand: Those ICU beds stay full all year round with strokes and heart attacks and non-covid related illnesses, and they’re not getting the treatment they deserve because those beds are currently full of unvaccinated individuals, primarily.”
Takubo said there are increasing limitations on transferring patients out of state because other states are in the same position.
“So you don’t have an option but to triage care when that happens,” Takubo said.
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) September 15, 2021
At Princeton Community Hospital in Mercer County, administrators are carefully balancing patient needs.
Health leaders are encouraging people with symptoms to visit their primary care doctors or to go to urgent care centers, said Karen Bowling, president and chief executive of the hospital.
“But our ICUs have a significant number of patients; our emergency departments are having to hold patients waiting on ICU beds,” Bowling said.
She added, “We’re always able to accommodate. Our job is to take care of our community. But we have ventilators in use. We have ICUs that are full. We have emergency rooms that are managing these patients when we don’t have an ICU bed available.”
Of the 893 covid patients in the hospital statewide, 750 of them — or 84 percent — are unvaccinated, according to state figures.
The previous pandemic high number of West Virginia covid patients in the hospital was 818 early this year. The current surge beat that mark last Friday and each day since then has brought a new high number.
West Virginia also has been hitting a new high every day with covid patients needing treatment in intensive care units. That number today was 275.
Of those, 250 are unvaccinated. That is 90 percent.
The number of patients requiring a ventilator to breathe is at 160.
Of those, 149 are unvaccinated. That is 93 percent.
“West Virginia, it’s really important for us to continue to work together, to pull the rope together, as the governor has said. And right now it’s even more important because of the stress on our healthcare capacity that by protecting ourselves and being fully vaccinated we protect each other and protect our healthcare assets,” Dr. Clay Marsh, West Virginia’s covid-19 response adviser said in a briefing today.
Jim Hoyer of the West Virginia joint interagency task force described the same increasing concern with strain on medical facilities. He said most non-essential procedures and elective surgeries “are being managed at the hospital level to maintain the integrity of their systems.”
Hoyer continued, “We have had a couple of cases the last couple of days where hospitals have received phone calls from as far away as North Carolina about the possibility of transporting critically ill patients from that state to West Virginia because of lack of resources in that state — but our hospitals don’t have the capacity to take on those additional ill people from other places.
“But that also points out, should we get to a capacity point — which we are close to — we will probably not have the ability to transfer patients to other states, or we’ll have challenges transferring patients to other states.”
Gov. Jim Justice and state officials have urged West Virginians for months to get vaccinated.
Of West Virginia’s vaccine-eligible population, 59.9 percent are considered fully vaccinated.
The seven-day average of vaccines administered per day is 1,435, a flat figure at best.
Justice today acknowledged that a significant portion of the population isn’t hearing his plea.
“The reality is, no matter what we say here, a lot of what we say is falling on deaf ears. It is. It’s falling on ears that are absolutely just defiant in saying ‘I’m not doing this. I’m just not doing it,'” Justice said at today’s briefing.
“And that’s your choice. And you know what we’re going to be. We’re going to be respectful of that until the cows come home. We’re absolutely going to stand and be respectful of your freedoms. Without any question this governor is going to stand by you on that forever. But I would just ask you, just this: You can really be helpful. You can really help us. And so I know a lot of this is falling on deaf ears. And believe me be, it breaks my heart because I want you to hear me. I really want you to trust me and to hear me.”